Russian skaters settle for second after opening battle in Beijing
US and Russian figure skaters have confirmed their status as the main favorites to clinch Olympic gold in the team competition in Beijing, occupying the top two places after the short programs on the opening day of the event on Friday.
Newly-crowned European champion Mark Kondratiuk showed no signs of nerves as the Russian delivered a solid skate in the men’s short program, coping well with all his jumping elements.
The Olympic debutant was rewarded with 95.81 points, a result which earned him third place and eight points for Russia.
Kondratiuk was behind recognized favorites Nathan Chen of the USA and Japan’s Shoma Una, who posted the two highest results respectively.
Chen, who is regarded as one of the main contenders to clinch the gold in the men’s singles event, posted a whopping 111.71 points to give his team an early win.
Ice dancers were the next to take the stage with Russia’s hopes pinned on reigning world and European champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, who had been expected to win the rhythm dance.
Their warm-up was marred by an incident when the Russian couple narrowly avoided a collision with American duet Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.
The episode seemed to affect the Russian champions as Katsalapov stumbled on a step sequence. The mistake didn’t go unnoticed by the judges, who placed the Russian duet in second place, behind their US rivals.
After two events the US team firmly sat in first place, scoring 20 out of 20 points available.
The pairs were the next to take to the Olympic ice in Beijing.
US competitors Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier produced an impressive performance to post 75 points – a result which helped the US team to cement their lead in the current standings.
The two-time world champions from China, Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, proved that they will be one of the leading contenders to fight for the Olympic crown on home ice.
They delivered a skate which earned them a world-record 82.83 points and the first place in the standings.
Reigning world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov were clean in their short program, but the judges placed the Russian pair second, just 0.19 points behind the Chinese duet.
After the first competitive day, the USA sits first with 28 points, Russia is second with 26, while China is currently in third place with 21 points.